The quality of light

This morning, a huge, raucous flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos filled the sky around Richardson Park. They’d actually been quietly tearing up the turf on the creek bank next to Bates Street until a certain excitable cairn terrier spotted them. After they’d wheeled a lap of the park they settled on the electric wires, hung upside down and generally teased him, which is what he deserved.


The light in the morning is kind of the same all year round; I could have taken this photo of these cockies in July or January. But afternoon light in winter is different. It has a quality that evokes something in me, something that makes me in equal parts nostalgic, sentimental, morose and the nice-kind-of sad. Perhaps it’s the reminder that the season of cold and dark is upon us and that this, deep down, reminds us of time’s relentless passing and thereby our own mortality.

Jambo would probably scoff at all this philosophising.


I know that smell has been shown to initiate memory retrieval. I’ve experienced it myself: the specific combination of metal being burnt or machined, mixed with industrial lubricant and metal grime (which I occasionally get as I pass the little engineering place on Clyde Street) immediately puts me back in the shipyard where I did my apprenticeship.

I think the quality of light can do this too. The winter light in the creek may be enhanced by the mournful clanging of the bell by the Clyde Street lights, or the down-thrust of a plane as it begins its descent into Williamtown. The sounds of vehicles (particularly trains and planes) going someplace else has always evoked that nostalgia/sentimentality in me. I was thinking that it might have something to do with “other lives going places” or “a sense of life passing me by” but I clearly remember having the same feeling when I was a small child, lying in my bed and hearing the two-car rattler heading over the Foxfield viaduct and onwards up the Cumbrian coast.


I’ve been trying to capture this light, but an iPhone really isn’t the tool for the job.


It can sometimes surprise me, my phone. I didn’t expect this iridescent bougainvillaea petal to look as hot and alive and vibrant on the screen as it did in the creek, but it does.


The maudlin times are upon me. Evening light, distant bells, trains and planes. The nice kind of sad.

4 Responses to The quality of light

  1. Ruth Cotton says:

    So evocative Mark; glad you are making time for your own writing amidst all else.

    • Mark MacLean says:

      Yes, hello! Actually, I just looked and your comment somehow got attached to your avatar. Don’t know how that happened! But I think you’re right; Jambo really does know how to scoff!

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